This episode was an absolute whirlwind! So many things happened in such a short period of time. That opening sequence with the girls team was really sad! I almost started crying! What a way to jump into the episode, and to get nothing more from them after the opening credits? You can’t just leave me with that! I’m so stressed!
But in all honesty, despite not spending very much time with Madoka and the rest of the girl’s team, I think their struggle and ultimate loss really emphasized just how important these tournament games are. Everyone wants to win and move on to the next round, and for some this match could easily be the last match they will play with their team whether they like it or not. So, when things get down to the wire where tensions are high and you could have given your team the last push they needed to fight a little bit longer, the harder you will crash when you are unable to deliver. And that is absolutely crushing because the mind becomes filled with “If onlys and what ifs” and ultimately regret for letting your team reach this unwanted outcome. Which sounds really dramatic! But it really does have an impact on you and the rest of the team. So when Madoka’s seniors started crying due to their loss. I was pretty broken. I really wish we could have seen a little more post match interactions between the team, but at the very least I hope it doesn’t foreshadow the outcome of the Kuzu vs Shinjo match up.
After the opening sequence we jump quickly to Sora and the rest of their team who has finally found their groove. And we start to get into this conversation about individualism and teamwork on the court. Both are good, but each have their downfall. In the beginning of the match, Kuzu High has dominated with their individualism and skills – It’s that reliance of individualism against another team that helps push them forward. Chiaki has absolute control of the court and everyone else is able to work together to secure points with his leadership. He has the luxury of playing to everyone’s particular skills. Well… that is until someone catches on to just how clever Chiaki actually is. As a point guard, Chiaki seems to be a person who is always thinking a few steps ahead and will make his move just in time for everyone else to catch up to him. But what happens when someone is just one more step ahead of him? Well, everything comes crashing down. This is where the teamwork aspect for Kuzu High really starts to falter. They are so used to focusing on their individual abilities, they haven’t quite worked out how to work as a team to get out of a tight spot. Aside from Chiaki, no one else on the court is really looking to see where others are trapped in order to support each other.
And don’t get me wrong, I thought Chiaki was really cool in this episode despite everything he’s had to deal with. I thought he was serious in the previous match, but man, nothing compares to this. And it’s incredibly interesting to see how he, the team, and viewers respond to it. Generally, everyone outside the match, looking in (give or take a few) is now looking at Chiaki like a blundering fool. Even his teammates are under the impression that Chiaki really isn’t on top of his game this time around. But in reality, Chiaki’s mind is probably working so much harder than it’s had to in past games. He has to set up incredible plays, but he also has to worry about his team and their ability to follow through with his decisions as a point guard. And when the other team has figured out how to prevent that follow through, what is he supposed to do? Of course he would get incredibly frustrated. They’ve managed to shut him out, and quite frankly, when he’s shut down, the team loses it’s cohesion. I’m really eager to see how he will (hopefully) bounce back from this. Also, I’m really seeing how the other senior from Shinjo high may prove to be a threat even if he’s going to be on the bench for the rest of the game.
This episode also focused pretty heavily on this idea of momentum; both the importance of having it and disrupting it. For me, momentum describes both the control of the game, but also the morale of the game. To have momentum, you have confidence in your actions, but also have confidence in the actions of your fellow team members. By disrupting Chiaki’s momentum via switching to a man-to-man defensive strategy Shinjo was able to throw everyone off their game, thus preventing baskets and building up their own “momentum”. Upon seeing Kuzu high waver and falter they found there chance to get the high ground. So, as a result Kuzu must find a way to shake up the momentum that Shinjo high has found. And so, Yasuhara, Kite, and Momoharu all get their moment to shine in just fantastic ways. I loved Yasu’s grin when he was praised for fouling another player – while it’s not the best play to make, he’s starting to find his place with the team. Kite is probably the biggest double edged sword on the team. He’s easily the one that the other team needs to be most wary about, but when he’s blocked off, suddenly the balance of Kuzu High is thrown off. So when he finally broke through and was able to recover Chiaki’s pass? That was just so cool! And to top it all off, Momoharu comes in to save the shot and gets his first basket! I’m so proud of all of them!
Overall, I thought this was a fantastic start into this match against Shinjo High. It’s anyone’s game as we reach the end of the reach the end of the first quarter, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next episode.